When the Personal Vote Is Not Enough: The Failure of Charter Reform in Columbia, South Carolina
Keywords:Charter Reform, Local Government, Government Structure
The choice of city structure is one of the most important choices that citizens and elected representatives face in local government. While we know a good deal about the macro-level trends in a city structure, we know comparatively less about why residents in individual cities may opt for one structure or another. In this paper, we focus on the unsuccessful 2013 single-issue referendum in Columbia, South Carolina, addressing why, despite support from key players, the city chose not to adopt a strong-mayor form of government. Using precinct-level data, we find support for the personal vote hypothesis. We discover that support for the sitting mayor is a significant predictor of support for reform, although the lack of voter mobilization city-wide may be too much of a factor for reform advocates to overcome. This investigation leads us to a number of conclusions that are relevant for both academics and practitioners who want to understand structural change in local government.
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